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Sunday, February 1, 2009

'Taken' bows with $24.6m, second biggest Superbowl weekend ever, Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2009

For years studios have largely shied away from releasing action films over Superbowl weekend, thinking only targeted genres like horror pics or counter-programming romantic comedies could withstand the dramatic sales drop over Superbowl Sunday. But it was Liam Neeson showcasing his "particular set of skills" that rocked the box office, surging past expectations to top the weekend. In fact, the film's $24.6 million bow became the second highest Superbowl weekend take in history, behind only last year's 3D entry Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds ($31.1m).

Liam Neeson posted the fourth biggest debut of his career as his kidnapping/revenge thriller Taken surged past industry estimates with a powerful $24.6 million. Released by Fox, the PG-13 pic averaged a strong $7,736 in 3,183 theaters, showing strong Friday and Saturday numbers despite mixed reviews. Produced by Luc Besson (The Professional, The Fifth Element), the film benefited from a hefty marketing blitz by Fox, which focused heavily on the film's raw, violent nature, delivered by the methodical Neeson. Taken earned $9.4 million on Friday and $11.6 million on Saturday for a 24% increase in ticket sales. Sunday estimates have the film dropping an understandable 69% to $3.6 million.

Sony's hit comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop continued its strong January, falling just 35% to $14 million, bringing its three week cume to an amazing $83.4 million. The Kevin James comedy is on pace to surge past $100 million, and could finish with $120 million domestic by the end of its run.

Trying to seize upon the recent popularity of horror films over Superbowl weekend (horror pics have topped three of the last four Superbowls including The Messengers in 2007, When a Stranger Calls in 2006, and Boogeyman in 2005), Paramount unveiled its horror remake The Uninvited, which debuted in third with $10.5 million. A remake of the Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters, the film averaged $4,485 from 2,344 theaters. Budgeted at a modest $20M, the film might still have trouble breaking even theatrically. Reviews were mostly poor.

Paramount fared better with is children's comedy Hotel for Dogs, which fell just 32% to $8.7 million. In just 17 days the PG comedy has collected an impressive $48.2 million.

Despite what will be a quiet night at the Oscars for Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino became the actor's highest-grossing film ever, as its $8.6 million weekend haul brought the film's cume to $110.5 million. In one weekend Gran Torino surpassed 2004's Million Dollar Baby ($100.4m), 1992's Unforgiven ($101.1m), and 1993's In the Line of Fire ($102.3m), giving Eastwood his fourth $100 million grossing pic ever.

Fox Searchlight's Slumdog Millionaire continued to receive the biggest Oscar bounce of the season, falling just 28% to $7.7 million, bringing its cume to $67.2 million. Adding 222 theaters to its theatrical run, the Danny Boyle pic has now become the third highest grossing film in studio history, behind only Sideways with $71.5m and Juno with $143.5m.

The weekend's only other new wide release, Renée Zellweger's comedy New in Town debuted in eighth with $6.8M million, averaging just $3,479 in 1,941 theaters. Released by Lionsgate, the poorly-reviewed pic failed to lure women in the studio's counter-programming bet.

Thanks to solid holds and a stronger than expected showing from Liam Neeson's Taken, the top ten films grossed an estimated $96 million, up 1% from last year's comparable frame when Hannah Montana shattered records with its $31.1 million debut. It was up a whopping 45% from 2007 when The Messengers topped a weak box office with $14.7 million.


Gaafar said...

Hey there,

That was a great box office review. However, I believe that Luc Besson only wrote and produced "Taken". It was directed by Pierre Morel (who directed "District B13"). That movie had some spectacular Parkour action.



Stephen Wong said...

Whoops! Thanks for catching that Gaafar, it's been fixed on the report now! Take care.